New St James Path Closed ‘To Keep Residents Safe’

The newly installed footpath across St James Park is to close because of safety fears.

On Tuesday night, a Shaftesbury Town Council meeting heard concerns that the route across the grass scan be unsafe. The Council’s head groundsman, Andy Dodd, said that the walkway could be considered dangerous because it’s slippery when wet.

George Hall chairs the Council’s ‘Rose’ committee, which has responsibility for Shaftesbury’s green spaces including this park. “It’s potentially unsafe in certain weather conditions – when it is wet or icy or there’s sap coming off the trees,” said George. “We don’t want to put the residents of Shaftesbury in an unsafe situation, so we’re going to close it off, get some professional advice on how to make it safe and remedy the situation. The plan is to get it fixed.”

Sycamore tree sap appears to be the main problem. Contractors treated the walkway with an anti-slip surface when the path was laid, but the material seeping down from the trees above has made this less effective.

Open Spaces Group member John Parker addressed the meeting from the public seating and suggested more regular tree pruning. A Councillor’s suggestion of a handrail was not popular. Some councillors felt it could split the park in two. George says there’s no firm idea on the best way to fix this problem yet. “There are a number of solutions. It could be steps, handrails or more of a zigzag than a straight-down path. I’m not going to second-guess. It’s not my area of expertise,” said George.

George told the meeting that the Council had been ‘atrocious’ in handling this path project and that they had ‘dropped a clanger’. But councillors were assured that a more robust system of checks for projects has since been put in place. Schemes are now assessed on a number of factors, including health and safety implications.

“We’ve learned some lessons from what we’ve been through, so we’re improving our procedures,” George said. The meeting heard that the Town Council is also considering outsourcing its health and safety advice.

The route down the  gradient from Park Walk to St James Street will now be cordoned off. Specialist safety advice will be sought before any remedial action is taken. The alternative route across the park is unaffected.

George doesn’t know how path will be closed. “It’s a top priority to get it done as quickly as possible and back open,” he said.